Winning back-to-back SCISA Class 2A state championships, the girls basketball team at Richard Winn Academy in Winnsboro has proven that underdogs should never be underestimated.
“Everyone wrote us off,” coach Jason Haltiwanger said. The 33-year-old Newberry resident has been coaching the team since the 2006-2007 season.
Haltiwanger said that the team is comprised of motivated players.
“Our motto is that the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle,” Haltiwanger said.
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Haltiwanger started the team on a strict summer workout schedule, along with workouts two days a week during the season. Some team members went beyond that, often working out three or four days a week on their own.
“I have to tell them to take a break,” Haltiwanger said with a laugh.
The coach said that he uses stories from the Bible to motivate the team. “We go after the greatest champion that ever walked the Earth. To me, that’s Jesus, and he never lost a battle,” Haltiwanger said.
The players know that if you want to have a victory, you must have sacrifice, the coach said. During conference play, several players were suspended from a game for violating a team rule. The team ended up playing the game with five players. One of those five sustained an injury a minute into the game, leaving four players on the court.
“They understood why it happened, and it made them humble,” Haltiwanger said. Richard Winn Academy won that game.
The team had one loss last season.
The depth also was a factor in helping them win the title. “There’s not a player on that team who isn’t important,” Haltiwanger said.
Haltiwanger insists that winning isn’t everything. He wants the players to take more from basketball than just trophies.
“We’re playing to win a championship in life, not just a championship in basketball,” Haltiwanger said.